India and Its Religion
1. A nation of 440 million people whose influence should be recognized and people understood.
2. India's Mind -- it has been shaped by its world outlook, its philosophy, and its religion.
3. India's religion is the oldest living religion going back to the gods of the great Indus Civilization which reached its heights between 3,000 and 2,500 B.C..
4. India was subsequently influenced by the gods of invading Aryans who reached India sometime between 1500 and 1200 B.C. Aryans (the name means from the earth): they had fair skin and pointed noses - moved by horses and hunted with bow and arrows -- they were mobile pushing through Greece, Italy, and India.
5. Hinduism: evolved and emerged after 5,000 years of history.
a. It is characterized by its lack of unity and its contradictions.
b. No hierarchical orthodoxy has ever been imposed on its followers.
c. "It commands human sacrifice and yet counts it a sin to crush an insect or eat meat; has more priests and images than Ancient Egypt or Medieval Rome and yet out does Quakers in rejecting all externals."
The Indus Civilization
1. Originally it was assumed that India which was invaded ca. 1500 B.C. was entirely primitive in its life and religion. It was also assumed that the essential faith of Hinduism was imposed upon a purely primitive animism.
2. Excavations at Mohenjodara and Harappa.
a. Indicate that the Indus Valley had a great civilization of a developed nature, with considerable cities, and an advanced religion.
b. The cities had a drainage and water system and excellent arrangements for the removal of refuse.
c. There are many signs of wealth from agriculture and trade -- its people had the wheel and wheeled vehicles -- they also had spinning and weaving and were skilled workers with metals.
3. Religious Importance
a. Large public baths with its priests' rooms -- probably associated with a cult involving ritual purity.
b. Pottery figures of the female deity, the Great Mother.
c. A figure of a male god with horns and three faces in the position of profound meditation.
o possibly the prototype of Shiva.
d. It is concluded:
1. There was the worship of a fertility or vegetation god analogous to Shiva.
2. It personified the reproductive powers of Nature and was firmly established in the Indus Valley and became a permanent part of Indian Religion.
3. The baths and other evidence of ceremonial washing recall the important part played by bathing and immersion in India's religion.
e. It is also concluded that Brahmans who subsequently appear as the priestly caste were not Aryans but priests of the native race and religion.
Vedic India and Religion
1. Vedism: is the culture resulting from the mixture of Aryans, Harrapans, and other peoples of the Indus and Ganges Valleys.
2. Vedas: are the earliest Indian writings which are a collection of religious songs, hymns, spells and rituals.
a. Veda means wisdom and these pieces of literature were originally oral.
b. Human speech was considered divine, so singing and praying to the gods became sacred actions.
c. It is the oldest living religious literature of the world, and the Indians are unique among Indo-European peoples in adhering to a religion in direct descent from that of the parent culture.
3. Vedic literature is thought to be the highest intuitive knowledge that a rishis (a holy man) can reach.
a. Shrutii: is the technical term to denote such a state of wisdom.
b. Shrutii can be translated as "revelation".
o it is what the rishis has perceived and seen through Vedic literature.
c. Samhitas: are the four separate collections of Vedas.
The Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda.
4. Rig-Veda is the oldest and was completed ca. 800 B.C.
a. Two purposes: first to praise the god being addressed, and second to ask the god for favors or benefits.
b. The Rig Veda also includes petitions for forgiveness which indicate a developed sense of morality.
o it is evidence of a religion centered on free choices between good and evil.
5. The Vedic Gods
a. Tradition says that there were 330 million divinities which were either:
1. devas - good divinities.
2. asuras - evil divinities.
1. They were conceived in either human or animal form whose primary feature was power.
ie. warmth of the sun/energy of the storm.
2. Normally a male deity with extra body parts. Extra pair of arms for strength in battle. An extra eye to see events at a great distance.
c. Depicted their religion with joyous, fun loving Gods.
1. The Sky God, Varuna (akin to Zeus).
2. Mitra or Mithra, god of the sun (sun deity of the Persians, Mithras).
3. Indra, the war and storm god.
4. Agni, the god of fire.
5. Soma, an intoxicating drink which is ascribed to divine agency.
6. Brahmanism: ca. 800 - 500 B.C.
a. A priesthood established itself and flourished during this period.
b. Religious literature consisted of directions for the carrying out of ceremonies and the performance of sacrificial rites known as the Brahmanas.
c. Brahmanism declined for two reasons:
1. Society had more to do than listen to priests chant all day.
2. Intellectuals desired something more satisfying than magic.
1. The Upanishads, a series of sacred books, set forth the whole philosophy of ancient India.
a. It was a movement away from polytheism in the direction of monotheistic pantheism.
o Monotheistic: the belief in one God or basic principle of existence.
o Pantheism: the belief in the indwelling of God in all things.
b. Lesser gods and goddesses are not abolished, but are subordinated to the Absolute though they are regarded as supermen.
ie. compared to Angles of Christian Theology.
c. The whole movement can be regarded as a reaction against the elaborate ecclesiastical activities of the Brahmans.
2. The Doctrines of the Upanishads:
a. Brahman: is the ultimate reality, lying beyond the changing world of sense, that which constitutes the inmost being of man.
o it is the unchanging something which endures and forms the substratum of the outward form which changes and passes.
b. Atman: is the individual self, the basic self behind the mind -- it is one's deepest identity "the soul or self".
1. It was concluded that the basic reality within and without, of self and the world, is the same.
o Atman is Brahman.
2. As the air in a jar, though enclosed, is one with the air outside, or as salt dissolved in water disappears but is tasted in every part.
o The Principle of Non Duality (advaita): the universal self is diffused throughout the universe and yet is present in the individual.
c. Maya: is reality taken as so marvelous that it proves incomprehensible for human beings.
1. The world is maya (illusion) and it is only as external objects are related to the self that they exist.
2. The Imperishable: it is independent, it does not perish, pass away, or suffer change.
d. Life is evil and obscures our real unity with Brahman-Atman -- we must seek deliverance from its traps and not follow outward pleasures or look for anything enduring among things unstable.
e. Samasara (the doctrine of rebirths)
1. The world is not ultimate existence or fully real.
2. One must penetrate Brahman, the truly real, to escape the cycle of rebirths.
3. One must travel the scale of animal life (up and down depending on one's advancement or regression) -- toward Brahman.
f. Karma: is the law that governs advancement or regression in the cycle of deaths and rebirths.
1. All acts have unavoidable consequences.
2. Karma explains one's status: a person's present life is shaped by that person's past lives.
3. Rebirth is undesirable and this is another reason why material existence is evil.
4. The supreme quest of Indian philosophy has been freedom from the bondage of the Karma of past deeds.
g. The goal of existence for the individual:
1. Release (freedom) from the endless cycle.
2. This may be obtained by the knowledge of the truth of the unity of the soul and Brahman -- also through ascetic discipline and moral effort.
3. This frees man from the round of existence so that he sinks into the universal self.
h. The Way of Salvation
1. Knowledge of the supreme truth which gives the possession of it power over his own destiny.
2. Ascetic discipline is also necessary to attain that state of consciousness in which saving knowledge is possible.
The Period of Native Challenge: 600 - 300 B.C.
1. The Vedic tradition of revelation (shrutii) grew through commentaries and instructions.
a. These materials are known collectively as smriti (memory or tradition).
b. Strong challenges decisively changed the religion of the majority.
2. North East India: warrior tribes were ready to challenge the priests' ability to cultural control (power).
a. Aryans (600 B.C.) had established themselves -- India was made up of small kingdoms.
b. Intellectuals attacked the Vedic theory that there is a reality other than the sensible or material.
c. Ajita (materialist) said that earth, air, fire, and water are the only elements.
1. They are the source of everything in the universe.
2. Differences: reflect different proportions of these elements.
3. Man at death dissolves back into these four elements -- there is no afterlife, no reincarnation, no soul, and no Brahman.
4. Nothing beyond senses is valid knowledge, and what the senses reveal is what real.
3. Jainism: came from the enlightenment of Vardhamana called Jina (conqueror) or Mahavira (great man).
a. Born to wealth -- he eventually led a life of asceticism.
b. Jina opposed both the ritualism and the intellectualism of the Vedic tradition.
c. "The only worthy knowledge is that which enables the personality to gain full freedom."
d. Jainism was opposed to all forms of violence and pain.
1. The opposed the Vedic sacrifice of animals -- calling it an assault on life and true religion.
2. Prohibited eating meat, harming anything believed to have a soul, and physical activity.
3. The Jains tried to balance any injury that they inflicted or bad karma they generated by acts of self denial or benevolence.
e. Jainism developed a system of vows or commandments to guide one's life-- this is one of the reasons why Jainism has lasted to the present day.
ie. not to injure living beings, not to lie or steal, not to accumulate wealth, not to travel widely or possess more than one needs, not to think evil of others etc.
f. The Jain doctrine of ahimsa (non injury) has made a permanent impression on Indian Culture.
4. Bhagavata: arose in Western India and unlike other movements forced changes within Hinduism.
a. Collective word for these movements is Bhagavata (devotionalism) -- emphasizing an emotional attachment to personal gods like Krishna or Shiva.
b. Bhaktas (devotees) claim such devotion is a way of salvation or self realization that is superior to sacrifice or intellectual meditation.
c. Mathura, a city in central India, devotion was focused on the god Krishna.
1. The name means dark blue or black -- he is believed to have originally been a solar deity.
2. Krishna became the object of love of an infant and romantic love and sexual love for a handsome young lord.
3. Bhagavad Gita (Krishna is the featured god) it offers ways of salvation to all types of persons.
o Bhakti (devotional love) appears to be its highest teaching.
4. In later Hindu theology, Krishna became an avatar (manifestation) of Vishnu.
d. Shvetashvatara Upanship: it was gospel for the god Shiva of a personal god's love.
o it is unique for its theism (focus on a personal god).
1. What is Brahman? Conclusion -- to interpret Brahman (the ultimate reality) as a kind of god who may become manifest if one meditates upon him.
2. Brahman was designated as Rudra-Shiva.
a. Rudra was probably a Dravidian form of Indra.
b. Shiva was a god of fertility.
o Combination: emphasis is on slaying and healing; destroying and creating (dualism).
3. Shiva is everything (depicted with five faces and three eyes).
4. He controls all direction and all time (past, present, and future).
o Shiva is a divinity as ultimate and powerful as Krishna but his destructive qualities are emphasized.
e. Devotion to Krishna (Vishnu) or Shiva satisfied the feeling for a personal god with whom to interact.
5. Smriti (tradition)
a. A period of commentary on Vedic literature to make it more understandable and relevant to the contemporary man.
b. The Caste System was the great social development of the smriti period.
c. The Rig Veda: had spoken of the creation of humanity in terms of four ranks:
ie. priests, warriors, merchants and laborers (workers).
d. Purusha: the primal man gave his mouth, arms, thighs and feet to make up the four ranks.
1. Brahminsi (priests) who exercise spiritual authority.
2. Kshatriyas (warriors) who exercise secular authority.
3. Vaishyas (merchants) ie. artisans, farmers etc. who re- present the economic aspect of society.
o these three classes comprise the "twice born" who obtain a second birth through initiation.
4. Sudras: somewhat like serfs who maintain certain rights.
e. Below these were the "impure" or untouchables who lie outside the caste system.
f. Social-Ethical Ideas set forth in the smriti.
1. Doctrine of the Four Legitimate Life Goals.
a. Kama (pleasure) meaning sexual pleasure but also the pleasure of eating, poetry, sports (lowest goal).
b. Artha (wealth) -- it dealt with ethics, statecraft, manners -- viewed as more important than pleasure. One of wealth propped up society and had social importance.
c. Dharma (duty) -- higher than pleasure and wealth. It meant principle, restraint, obligation, law and truth -- the responsible acceptance of one's social station.
d. Moksha (liberation): it is the highest goal of life. It meant self realization in freedom from Karma. Realization that life and rebirth was illusionary (maya).
2. Ashrama (four stages or goals of life):
ie. except for the workers. (life divided into quarters.)
a. Student: apprentice to a guru to learn the Vedic tradition and develop his character.
b. One would marry, raise children, and carry out social responsibilities. ie. this would include economic and political responsibilities.
c. When one had seen his grand children -- smriti urged him to retire from active life and tend to his soul.
ie. he could give advice and be involved in secular affairs but should begin to detach himself from the world.
d. Finally, he should seek Moksha -- by ending his life as a poor wandering ascetic.
The Period of Reform: ca. A.D. 300 - 1200
1. This period saw the rise of major Hindu Sects which effectively revamped (changed) Hinduism.
2. Two major divisions.
a. Nastikas (those who say no): materialists, Jains, and Buddhists who rejected the Vedas.
b. Astikas (those who say yes): darshanas or orthodox philosophies originated with the astikas.
1. They attempted to set forth explanations for shruti (revelation).
2. Minansa, Samklya, Yoga, Wyaya, Vaisheshinka, and Vedanta (six of them).
3. Vendanta: the oldest of the Darshanas.
a. Shankara, Vendanta Brahmin of the 9th Century, attempted to systematize the Upanishads in terms of advaita (non-dualism).
b. There are two kinds of knowledge: higher and lower.
1. Lower knowledge is under the limitations of the intellect.
2. Higher knowledge is free from such limitations.
c. Limitations (of the intellect): include reasoning character, its dependence on senses, and its dependence on the body to act.
o Objective Limitations (aspects of known things): ie. space, time, change, and cause and effect relationships.
d. Objective limitations cause us not to see or grasp reality in itself.
e. Higher knowledge: comes by direct perception that is free from of either subjective or objective limitations.
f. Direct vision is shrutii of the wise men who produced the Vedas.
1. Shankara assumed that Vedanta philosophers should practice Yoga.
2. The philosopher would then experience the removal of the barrier (veil) between the self and Brahman.
g. Shankara applied his theory to hermeneatics (the study of textual interpretation).
1. All passages that treat Brahman as one are derived from higher knowledge.
2. All references to Brahman as many are derived from lower knowledge.
h. Brahman in itself is one and without limitations. Brahman for us (as we perceive it) appears to be multiple (in the world and beyond it) cause and prime mover.
1. Reality within is identical to reality without: Atman is Brahman.
2. When one realizes through shrutii (revelation) or higher knowledge that there is no change (space, time, cause and effect limitations), one discovers there is no self.
3. There is only the Self, the Brahman reality -- it is the reality of both the internal and external being. (? of maya)
a. The theistic movements to reform Vedism were more popular.
ie. The two principal ones centered on Vishnu and Shiva.
b. Theistic religion centered on Vishnu was given support and patronage from the Gupta Kings in the 4th Century.
c. Vaishnavite Doctrine: that the god (Vishnu) is concerned about human beings, fights with them against demon enemies, and sends avatars of himself to assist humans in times of trouble.
ie. 10 avatars have been listed; the most important are Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kali.
d. Frequently depicted with four arms to signify his power to fight evil.
e. Strength (support of) Vaishnavism
1. It associated Vishnu to the bhakti cult through the avatar Krishna. 6th-16th Centuries through the Puranas (legendary accounts of the gods and heroes).
2. Alvars (persons deep in wisdom): troubadours who spread devotion of Vishnu through religious songs.
ie. Vaishnavite bhakti in southern India during the 7th and 8th Centuries.
a. Deep love of Vishnu, a love that broke the bonds of caste.
b. Theme: Vishnu's own love and compassion for human beings.
f. Ramanuja, a religious philosopher.
1. Lived in the 11th Century and attempted to (Upanishadic Doctrine) show that divinity was compatible with human love.
2. Vishishtadvaita: "nondualism qualified by difference"
a. He opposed the nondualism of Shankara, whom he con- sidered a philosophical enemy.
b. Brahman: consisted of three realties.
ie. the unconscious universe of matter, the conscious community of finite selves, and the transcendent lord Ishvara.
3. Atman is Brahman ("This thou art"): did not mean an absolute identity between the two.
a. Ramanuja: believed that it meant the psychological oneness that love produces.
b. The way to Moksha (liberation) was loving devotion to the highest lord who represented Brahman.
o knowledge and pure actions were good paths, but love was better.
g. Vaishnavites made Ramanuja a philosophical defender of their bhakti by substituting Vishnu or Krishna for Brahman or Ishvara.
5. Shaivism: devotion to Shiva competed with Vaishnavism.
a. Shiva: Lord of the Dance of life and the Destroyer who terminated each era of Cosmic Time.
b. Response to a Wild God.
o a source of emotional excesses, and its tone always mixed love with fear and awe unlike Vaishnavism.
c. From the Mahabharta, says that the Pashupati (one of the earliest Shaivite sects) taught:
1. To end human misery and transcend the material world -- one had to engage in rituals such as smearing the body with cremation ashes, eating excrements,carion, human flesh, drinking from human skulls.
2. Kalamukha (named for the black mark on their forehead) became notorious as drug addicts, drunkards, and even murderers.
d. Shaivite Priests normally came from the lower classes, non Brahmin classes.
o Shaivite followers often regarded the linguam (phallus) as Shiva's main emblem.
e. Shaivite adiyars (a parallel to the Vaishnavite alavars).
* their poetry and hymns were a principal reason for Shiva's rise to prominence.
f. 5th - 10th Centuries: the Shaivite movement received royal patronage in southern India.
1. They waged war against the Jains and Buddhists -- then turning against the Vaishnavites claiming the superiority of Shiva over Vishnu.
2. Theology: depicted not only as the Lord of the Cosmic Dance, god of fertility and destruction but also as the hidden god.
3. To stress Shiva's ability to transcend all opposites, his followers depicted him as androgynous.
g. Shaivite Worshippers:
1. Conscious that they were sinners through mysterious rituals and Shiva's own symbols of fire and a skull.
2. Referred to themselves as curs -- believed it was pure grace that the god would come to them.
3. Worship was gratitude that the god chose to forgive rather than to destroy.
6. Shaktism or Tantrism
a. Focused on secret love whose prime objective was to liberate the energies of imagination, sex, and the unconscious.
b. Shakti Sects: its rites were secret.
1. Analogy: the sex act (intercourse) -- to show the relationship between the Cosmos and its energy flow.
2. Theory of Parallels (dualism): in which male-female, right-left, and positive-negative pairings had symbolic meaning.
c. Chakrapuja (circle work) -- ritual to gain moksha.
1. Men and women without regard to sex or caste used a series of elements that might facilitate union with Shakti:
ie. wine, meat, fish, parched rice, and sex.
2. It was a ritual discipline to participate in lilia (reality's play).
* Shakti -- is the generative energy of a divinity or ultimate reality, often represented as a Hindu God.
Reformation of the Vedic Tradition
1. There was an expanded role for some Vedic gods, and a shift from sacrifice to devotional, theistic worship.
2. There was an attempt to defend and extend their heritage, allowing people to respond to any part they wished.
3. Unique Character: that it is tolerant of diversity in religious doctrine and practice.
The Period of Foreign Challenge
1. From ca. 1200 -- India increasingly came into contact and conflict with foreign cultures and religions especially from Islam and Christianity.
2. Islam Expansion
a. 8th Century: in the Sind and Punjab (regions of Northwest India) Muslims were trading and made some military conquests.
b. 11th Century: Much of the Indus Valley was under Muslim control, and by 1206 Islam had conquered most of Northeast India.
c. By 1335, Muslims controlled the south and their dynasty, the Mogul, did not end until 1858.
3. Muslim Policy toward Hindus:
a. It varied form location and time; some were tolerant allowing traditional Hindu practices.
b. Others attempted to establish a Muslim state by stopping gambling, drinking, prostitution, use of narcotics, and other prohibited by Islamic Law.
4. The Influence (Impact) of Islam on Hinduism
a. Muslim fundamentalism based on the belief the Koran is God's final word, upgraded the status of the Vedas.
b. Hindus found Sufism, the devotional practice of Islam, quite compatible with their native bhakti practices.
5. Sikhism: was a direct result of Islam's presence.
a. Revelations of the prophet Nanak, an Punjab born in 1469.
b. He sang the praises of a divinity who combined the Muslim Allah with the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
c. He called this god the "True Name" -- he moved his followers away from Hindu pilgrimages and devotions to favoring compassion and neighborly good deeds.
o They number ca. six million in India today.
a. Tradition: says that St. Thomas (the apostle) traveled there in the 1st Century.
b. A.D. 189 -- the Bishop of Alexandria sent a delegation to India, and in A.D. 325 Indian representatives attended the Council of Nicaea.
c. 16th Century: Christian Missionaries came (with Portuguese, then Dutch and English traders.
d. The British East India Company
1. Founded in 1600, it controlled the Indian economy and trade.
2. 1857 - after the Sepoy Rebellion (mutiny), India came under the direct colonial control of the British government until independence in 1947.
e. Only 3.9% of Indians consider themselves Christians.
1. It has helped to arouse social consciousness for others.
2. Western Culture brought modern science, technology, and democratic political theory to India.
1. After the Reformation Period, Hinduism directed itself toward the further development of bhakti.
2. The poetry of Kabir (1440-1518), he was a forerunner of the Sikh founder Nanak.
a. "The love of God became the heart of a religion that ignored distinctions between Muslims and Hindus, priests and workers."
b. For Kabir -- love correlated with only a pure heart.
3. Ramananda, a teacher of Kabir and follower of Ramanuja.
a. The important thing was to adore (love) God whom Ramanada called Rama.
b. Rama -- considered all persons equal.
4. Southern India (among those who spoke Tamil)
a. The Lord Vishnu appeared as a god of pure grace.
b. The Tamils said that self concern is useless and distracting -- not works but love is redeeming.
5. Western India: 13th - 17th Centuries
a. Maratha Renaissance: a poetic movement that spread the message of bhakti.
b. Tukaram (1607-1649) stressed God's otherness and the sinfulness of man.
o His God was not Brahman but a free agent and lover whose goodness in saving sinners was more impressive because of their distance from him.
6. Modern Hinduism
a. These movements established a focus on bhakti moving away from Vedic orthodoxy.
b. Upanishadic Doctrine or the idea of shruti or smriti meant very little to them.
1. The love that they had found undercut traditional views of social class, sex, and religion.
2. The god of love was no creator of castes, despiser of women, and a power of Hindus against Muslims.
7. Chaitanya, 16th Century Bengali -- best representative of Bhakti - his followers worship him as an avatar of Krishna.
a. Chaitanya was originally a Brahmin and was converted to Vaishnavism.
b. His devotions became very emotional: ie. singing, dancing, weeping, and epileptic fits.
c. Repudiated the Vedas and non dualistic Vendanta philosophy as opposing a gracious god.
o all were welcome in his sect, regardless of caste.
d. He emphasized assimilation with Radha, Krishna's lover -- arguing that the soul's relation to God is always female to male.
e. He stressed the necessity to toil at religious love and opposed those who said that grace was attained without effort.
f. Chaitanya -- was deified by his followers.
o "Hare Krishna" is an expression of his worship today.
8. Brahmo Samaj founded Rammohon Roy in 1828.
a. Opposition to the excesses of bhakti; (Bengali intellectuals) influenced by Western Culture; and feeling a need to purify Hinduism.
b. Roy was a well educated Brahmin:
o Influenced by both Christianity and Islam, he believed there was only one God for all men who inspired social concern.
1. He was opposed to the Hindu practice of suttee (sati) -- where a widow is burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre.
2. Callcutta (1815-1818) -- there had been more than 1500 such deaths.
3. Roy pressured the British government to outlaw the practice which it did in 1829.
c. Brahmo Samaj: believed that this type of social concern was essential to a pure religion.
9. Ramakrishna Mission: originated in the Bengal during the 19th Century.
a. Ramakrishna, the founder, was an uneducated Brahmin -- became a worshipper of Kali; and then progressed through the Tantric, Vaishnavite, and Vedanta disciplines.
o He even lived as a Muslim and as a Christian for a period of time.
1. That we can find God everywhere -- Divinity exists in every human heart.
2. Stresses the theme of worshipping God by serving other human beings.
Tagore and Gandhi: 20th Century
1. Questions of religious and social reform in the 20th Century influenced attitudes over Indian nationalism and independence.
a. Not all Indians opposed the British -- most Indians thought of themselves as Bengalis or Guratis, or Punjabis.
b. A national character or tradition had not emerged over the centuries.
o this fact and differences emerge in the lives of both Tagore and Gandhi.
2. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
a. He won the Noble Prize for literature -- he wanted to find the artistic and educational forms that would instill the Indians with a broad humanism.
b. He feared that nationalism would destroy individual creativity and blind Indians to the values outside of India.
c. The West:
1. He found a concern for the material world which he thought could be a cure for India's cultural problems.
2. Emphasis of individual creativity -- that contact with the West would promote the idea of using individual creativity to improve society.
3. Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)
a. Trained as a lawyer in England, he went to South Africa where he represented "color" minorities.
b. Influenced by a Western Idealism:
o New Testament, Tolstoy on Christian Socialism, and Thoreau on Civil Disobedience.
c. Satyragraha (truth force)
Used a Simple Truth: Indians, like all humans deserve the right to control their own destinies.
1. Gandhi combined Western Idealism with his own political pragmatism influenced by Indian Religious attitudes.
2. Bhagavad Gita: athe doctrine of Karma-yoga (work as a spiritual discipline). The Jain-Hindu attitude of ahimsa (non-injury).
o these were synthesized into his Satyagraha.
d. On the Question of Ahimsa:
1. hisma (violence) exists and is part of the world-- the destruction of life (hisma) is inherent in life.
2. Compassion has to be the corner stone of ahimsa-- one needs to try to grow in an awareness that leads to self restraint.
3. The unity and sanctity of all life is the underlying principle of ahimsa -- the social character of man and his fallibility will involve him in himsa.
4. Violence is part of the evolutionary and political reality of the world.
5. We can strive to minimize our violence and destructiveness, not injuring any fellow creature needlessly.
e. Very active in the cause of the "Untouchables" whom Gandhi called the Harijin (children of God) to relieve the disabilities that they faced.
f. Tagore had criticized Gandhi's nationalism as being reactionary.
g. Gandhi's Vision of India:
1. An India of self-sufficient villages isolated from the "evils" of modern industry.
2. It would be an India that would spin its own cotton into cloth, raising its own food, living in harmony and contentment.
h. Acarya Vinoba Bhave (d. 1982) was his successor and sought to further Gandhi's vision.
1. He sought to persuade villagers and large landowners to pool their lands, working them and enjoying their produce communally. (the Bhudan or "land - gift policy).
2. Nearly four million acres have been established for this purpose -- a kind of village communism with love and moral persuasion replacing class struggle.
i. Hindu-Muslim Enmity
1. 1905 under Lord Curzon, the Bengal was partitioned into Hindu and Muslim provinces -- violence led to the reunion of the Bengal in 1911.
2. Expelling the British was viewed as a sacred duty (nationalism and Hinduism were merged).
3. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) established annual celebrations in honor of Ganensha.
Ganesha: the elephant - headed god, son of Shiva, known as the remover of all obstacles.
4. Tilak's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita carried a message that political action was a teaching of Krishna.
o implication that violence had divine sanction.
j. January 30, 1948: Gandhi was assassinated by a Maratha Hindu nationalist.
1. Maratha emphasis on Shiva, the destroyer.
2. Gandhi's attempt to bring Hindu and Muslim together to create one India had failed.
1. Characteristic: variety and diversity in religious ideas and practices.
2. Naumi: in the Fall, September or October (9th day of the festival of 9).
a. Festival devoted to nine goddesses.-- mediums are constantly making contact with the supernatural world -- a procession of men possessed in climax to their work.
b. Two principal mediums: a weaver claiming to be directed by Mata, the mother goddess.
A carpenter claiming to be directed by a local incarnation of Vishnu.
o people would come to them asking for help for personal problems.
c. The Afternoon of Naumi: each medium holds rites in their own home.
o then there is a procession to the center of town.
d. Evening: a goat is sacrificed at each of the three principal shines.
1. This is to assure the town's good fortune in the coming year.
2. People purify themselves with fire by walking between two flames.
o This sacrifice is performed for the welfare of the whole village.
3. Rituals: can vary from one geographical area to another depending on local gods and customs.
4. For Hindus of the Himalayas, the shaman sill remains influential.
a. It normally involves the possession of the shaman -- he is usually called upon because of some misfortune.
b. He may be from any caste and is a medium of a particular god.
1. He begins with a prayer or song to the god accompanied drum beating.
2. He enters a trance becoming impervious to pain which he demonstrates by touching hot metal.
3. While in a state of full possession, the shaman tells the individual what the problem is and what can be done.
c. If the client does not like what he is told, he goes to a different shaman.
d. Puja (short ceremony)-- in honor of the being caused the trouble.
o a pilgrimage to a shrine or the removal of harmful objects causing a disease.
o sometimes an impossible treatment such as the sacrifice of a cow.
e. The Pujua: other specialists are needed.
1. Purpose: to execute the ceremony, so the god can enter the body and dance in it, and make any further demands.
2. Puja specialists usually come from lower castes and induce possession by playing percussion instruments.
3. Three parts: the dance, the puja or prayer, and the offering.
f. The Dance:
1. The dance is to attract the god into the human body (ie. possession).
2. Someone begins to dance, shout, and jerk (he is honored with incense because for the moment he is a god).
g. Prayer (puja)
1. The god speaking through the possessed person tells the cause of the problem and what must be done to appease the god.
2. The victim and his family make a prayer promising to comply with the requests of the god.
h. The Offering: normally a young male goat.
1. When the goat shakes, it is believed that the god has accepted the offering.
2. The goat is taken outside and beheaded and the attendant places the head and a foot of the animal before the shrine.
3. The ritual specialists will take these as payment while the family and guests share the rest of the goat.
5. Rite of Passage (life cycle) Ceremony:
o Purpose: to help the people cope with different stages of life.
a. The habisha ritual is a brata or vowed observance:
1. Usually people make vows to gain something in this world and the next.
2. Habisha: focuses spiritual power to prevent death of a woman's husband.
b. Purification: to prepare for the ritual.
1. A woman cuts her nails and then takes a ritual bath -- a Brahmin further purifies her by sprinkling cow-dung mixed with water over her.
2. The drinking of panchagavia is the ideal way to purify oneself.
ie. Five holy substances of the cow: milk, curds, clarified butter, wine and dung.
c. Typical Day (month long process):
1. Predawn ritual bath facing in each of the four directions praying to the gods, ancestors, and other sources of help.
2. Mud pictures of Vishnu as a child and prayers are offered to the rising sun.
3. One could only eat food considered pure and could not have any spices. Each meal had to contain clarified butter.
d. One had avoid defiling contacts such as stepping on animal wastes or touching a person of a lower caste.
e. She would participate in dances re-enacting legends of Krishna.
6. To the Hindu: sin consists in ritual disobedience or infringement of caste custom, rather than indecency, untruth, dishonest etc.
7. Primitive Customs
a. Many customs and rituals go back centuries. The idea of custom may be stronger in India than anywhere else in the world.
b. Temples and Priests
1. The temple is the home of the god and not a place of worship.
2. Incense is burned before Him and the offering presented to him.
3. Priests are all Brahmins but not all Brahmins are priests (they may enter any profession today).
c. Holy Men (besides priests):
1. Sadhus: teachers.
2. Gurus: wandering ascetics.
3. Sanyassi: magicians and exorcists.
8. Position of Women
a. The woman's role was to subordinate herself completely to her husband and to bear children.
b. A widow was prohibited from mentioning any man's name except her dead husband.
o suttee was without merit unless it was done out of pure love.
c. Hindu Society: women were not generally eligible for moksha -- the best they could hope for was to be reborn as a man.
d. The birth of a girl was attributed to bad Karma in a previous life.
Birth Announcement: "Nothing was born."
e. Manu's Law: (one of Hinduism's oldest law codes) -- women are as impure as falsehood itself -- "the wise man never sits with a women in a lonely place."
9. Siri Aurobindo:
a. Negative Practice of Escapism: believed that Indians escape into their souls to avoid the requirements of material reality.
b. India has allowed her material culture to decay into poverty and misery.
c. When everything is attributed to Karma, one faces the despair of constant re-births.
1. The aim of most religions is to overcome death by eternal life.
2. Hinduism is an effort to overcome life and bring an end -- to terminate the endless imprisonment of the soul in matter.
10. The Western World
a. Hinduism has always had the power of absorbing ideas and theories from the outside.
b. The power of the priests may decrease as life becomes more secularized.
o this may lead to the abandonment of many customs and practices.
Monotheism or Not: Hinduism culminated in a triad of Gods.
1. Brahma: the creator.
2. Vishnu: the preserver.
3. Shiva: the destroyer.
The Threefold Deity: these three are sometimes depicted by one body and three heads.